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Declutter with Bins

by Veronica 22. January 2013 16:44

The Bins

Each child in our family has a plastic bin.  This bin is either in their closet or under their bed.  These bins when used properly can be the answer to decluttering a bedroom and home!

My kids collect stuff and stuff just seems to find them.  A trip to the dentist will bring in array of novelties like spinning tops, parachute men, stickers, and more.  A birthday party hat or noisemaker might be just too much fun to throw away.  The mail brings circulars with pictures of doughnuts, ice cream, and other treats that should but cut out and gazed upon every few days.  Yes, my son carried around an advertisement for doughnuts for over a year!

So how can we find a home for all these amusements?  The bins have been the solution for our family.  Each child has their own plastic bin.  It is soley their property to place all the gadgets, papers, and important stuff that is not ready to be thrown away.  If it fits in the bin then it can be saved.  We have one simple rule:  no food or beverage is allowed to enter the bins.

About every six weeks we have a review time so the kids can go through the bins on their own and part with those items that have lost their fancy and make room for new items.  I will admit that on the days when everyone is reviewing the contents of their bins some trading does occur.  The spinning top may have lost its appeal to the 9 year old, but is now a wonder of revolution to the 5 year old.



Why the Kids Like the Bins


They don't have to throw away that special craft or trinket until they are ready.

It holds all the treasures that are individually special to them.

They know exactly where to find that special something that brings them a little enjoyment.


Why Mom Likes the Bins


It reduces the amount of clutter I see around the house.

I don't feel like a meanie making them get rid of something that is meaningless to me, but meaningful to them.

I have a place to direct them to put there stuff away when they find new treasures to behold.

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Preschool by Design

by Veronica 29. September 2012 16:44

Many families have started a new school year with all things running smoothly.  Some families are wondering about the preschoolers.  Should they have a plan?  Do they need a plan?  The answer can vary from day to day and be different for each child in your preschool age group.  We have developed a plan for our little ones that we use when needed.  Sometimes the little ones are content with their toys and have a great play day during the school day.  Other times they come asking for "twin time".




We call it twin time (named after our twin daughters) but the name really doesn't matter.  I'll explain how we use it in our home and then you take the parts you like along with your own inspirations and develop something that works for your family.  We've been doing twin time for several years and have used a variety of subjects such as:  music, craft, religion, storytime, learning, outside play, playtime, and you can add more.  I then assign each of my older children to a subject.  In our family there are usually about 4 or 5 older kids ready to have a fun time during their twin time.  We rotate the subjects among the older kids about every 2 months because all the big kids usually want a turn to do craft time, plus it keeps fresh ideas and approaches to utilize during that special subject time.

So what happens during twin time?  My older child takes a timer and sets it for 25 minutes.  During that time they have fun with the little ones focusing on the appointed subject.  During craft time for example they might do some painting, make something out of popsicle sticks and construction paper, or use yarn, glue, glitter, foam, colored tape, and other supplies to make a mask, puppet, or decoration.  When the timer beeps, the timer is reset for 5 minutes which is clean up time.

The older kids get a break from school and spend some sibling time with the littler kids and the little kids have fun.  Some days all the subjects are covered, other days the little kids are playing with their toys and then will decide they would like to have some twin time.  Usually if one of my older kids is done with their school work or almost finished I will let them take the first turn, other times an older child simply would like a break and volunteers. 

One of the key points is preparedness.  Before anyone leaves with a timer they have an idea about what they will be doing.  We make boxes that are filled with ideas for each subject and add to these boxes throught the year as we come across clearance items, gifts, or ideas in magazines or newspapers.  This time can be very simple or can get very enlivened.  My big kids thought it would be fun to have weekly themes.  So they made a list of themes for each week of our school year and focused their twin time around that theme. 

For example "At the Beach" could consist of reading books about characters that take trips to the beach for storytime.  During craft time the little kids can make clear bottles become a beautiful table centerpiece with layers of colored sand.  At playtime they can pretend they are packing for a beach trip by getting their gear together.  They then put on sunglasses and lay out their beach towel and play games with an inflatatable beach ball.  What about religion?  The mercy of Jesus is usually described as an ocean.  Talk about the ocean, show pictures from books and show how much water is on the earth with the use of maps and globes then do an experiment.  Fill a container with water and get an eyedropper and take a drop from your container and put it into an empty container.  The little kids will delight it doing something with their hands and getting a turn to put drop after drop into the unfilled container.  After a while they will get the idea that God's mercy is very great and more than we can imagine.

What I like best.  The little kids are learning and having fun and developing strong bonds with their older siblings.  My older children are loving their younger siblings and learning how to teach and have patience.  We do have a simple rule that the little kids must listen and follow directions or they can be excluded from that twin time activity.  It happened in the beginning a few times that a little one was sitting upstairs doing nothing while mom graded papers or helped another child.  My little ones quickly learned that they would rather mind than miss out on the activity.

What about Mom?  Well I don't have an official twin time.  I am usually the first stop in the showing off of the craft, color page, or getting to hear the exciting activity that just occurred.  And when your a mom time with your little ones can really be called anytime.  


EXTRA TIPS for very young ones:


Put your little ones in the high chair for craft time.  This helps your older child keep things under control since they can easily remove finger paint or other messy substances easily and not worry about it getting everywhere.

We also have a set of small old t-shirts we use as smocks that can get messy so their daily wear doesn't get stained.

Very small kids will not always stay still to hear a story or do an activity so train your big kids to go with the flow.  A storytime can turn into reading one page from 10 different books.  Sitting on the floor singing songs can turn into a parade singing around the room.

If you have a wider age span in preschoolers (an 18 month old and a 4 year old) consider having seperate fun times for each of them or have 2 older children assigned to the subject to help their partner at their age level.  There are many ways to work it out with your specific situation.  Even coming up with new subjects that appeal to both of them can be an option.  How about snack time?  (You can get fun and fancy with this one too!)


Remember to create something that works for your specific family and keep changing it as your family changes!






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Spring Cleaning

by Veronica 17. March 2012 16:38

Is it that time already?


Spring Cleaning is in the air!  Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work?  Honestly, I don't think I'ver ever done "Spring Cleaning".  I think it is a great concept and works well for a lot of people.  It just hasn't been a good fit for me and my family. 

Why?  I just don't have the time or the energy to do an intense overhaul of my entire home.  Maybe I will some day but until then we live in a filthy house!  No, just kidding.  Our house is not immaculate with 11 people running all over it, but we do try to maintain cleanliness and orderliness.  Here is our method:

All Year Cleaning! 


I begin by making a list of all the rooms in the house including the linen closet, garage and outdoors. 

Then I combine the items on that list to end up with 12 numbered areas.  I usually combine the smaller spots together like linen closet and hall closet together and leave the big areas like the garage to stand alone. 

Once I have my list of 12, I assign a month to each number.  Months that are busier for us, like December tend to get the easier spots from the list of 12.  Months where the schedule is relaxed get the bigger jobs.

Each month I know which areas are going to get a complete overhaul and we have the whole month to get it done!  A complete overhaul means cleaning beyond the daily duties for us.  Washing the windows and window coverings, cleaning out light fixtures, taking everything out of drawers or cabinets and reviewing what to keep and get rid of, rearranging for efficiency, and so forth. 

This method has been so enjoyable because you feel a sense of accomplishment all year long!  It helps keep things from piling up that are not used or need replacing.  No worries about items collecting dust because they have been hidden in the back of drawers or closets for years.

Broken toys get fixed or tossed, items in good condition that are no longer needed can be donated, and space is opened up for a cleaner and more organized look that makes daily life easier!

If "Spring Cleaning" doesn't fit your family then maybe you need a year to get it done like us! 


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Homeschool Burnout - Finding A Way Out (Literally)

by Veronica 16. February 2012 16:01

Avoiding Burnout

Continuing the series on homeschool burnout this is the third in the series, visit the first post on energizing your day, and the second post focusing on fun!  This series is dedicated to avoiding the dreaded dark clouds of burnout.  Let these ideas inspire you to make some sunshine in your homeschool!


Changing the scenery can get everyone excited about a school day!


Here are some suggestions for finding a new study spot.

  • Pick another room in the house to spend your day!  This is the easiest location because you have everything accessible to you at home for school work and entertainment for younger kids.  If you forget something just go get it and you are set for the day. 


  • Head out to the public library.  Plan to check out books of interest in science or history based on what you've been studying in those subjects.  You can also bring your math books along and reward the kids with a book to check out when they finish their work.   Your little ones will enjoy having a story time session with you!


  • Have you ever noticed how food courts in the mall have plenty of table space?  Get there early and find a corner spot.  When everyone needs a break use those coupons you’ve been saving for a snack or drink.   We’ve brought our own lunch to the mall and haven’t encountered any problems.  Since you are at the mall, you might get an errand done at the same time!  The bonus is it is totally stroller friendly and hi-chairs are available!

Note:  Expect the food court to get crowded during lunch time.

  • If you live in an area that isn’t too cold out then take your school outdoors.  It could be your backyard or a nearby park.  You can use the outdoor setting for subjects such as science and nature, art, or geography.  Playground equipment will allow everyone to get some good physical education!  You can also learn at a park if you choose one with a memorial, or a specific dedicated theme.  We’ve been to rose gardens, Japanese tea gardens, and arboretums all with no cost for entry.   


Plan ahead the night before making sure you have the proper study materials, snacks, drinks, activities for younger kids, strollers, diaper bags and anything else that will make your outing pleasurable.



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Homeschool Burnout - Fun School

by Veronica 7. February 2012 01:40


Avoiding Burnout

Continuing the series on homeschool burnout, visit the first post on energizing your day, this second post focuses on fun!  This series is dedicated to avoiding the dreaded dark clouds of burnout.  Let these ideas inspire you to make some sunshine in your homeschool!

  Fun School 

The kids came up with the name "Fun School" many years ago.  We did it at random times of the year, until one of my daughters made it a monthly day of Fun School.  She was given an assignment to write a persuasive paper.  I told her she could choose any topic and if it was well written with valid points that I would consider her request.  And that is how Fun School became a dedicated day we do each month!

What is Fun School?  Well it doesn't mean that the other days of school are not fun- I wanted the kids to be clear on that point.  It just means that we take a break from our standard curriculum and do the things we haven't had time to do, or the things that we really enjoy, or continue working on something we are really excited about at the time.


 Here are some examples of Fun School:


  • School games - There is a game for just about every subject.

  • Religion - Decorate your home with posters celebrating the faith, re-enact a Bible story, or cut out religious symbols (cross, dove, fish) and decorate them for display.  Think Vacation Bible School in your own home!

  • History - We've built and burned the Tower of London, made viking boats, and cooked foods from other countries.

  • Science - Science kits can be so much fun.  Most kids like watching science come alive with real experiments.  These can be very involved to simple, but either way they have a big impact.  Don't have a kit?  Check the internet or your science books for items around the house that you can use.

  • Geography - Learn where places are in the world by doing geography puzzles!  Call out a country/river/capital and have the kids take turns locating it on a map.  You can do this with coordinates for longitude and latitude as well.

  • Construction sets - The possibilities are endless and most come with instructions for building a few examples. 

  • Writing poetry or stories - Some kids just like writing while others will choose something different.

  • Craft projects - Rugs, paintings, dioramas, cross-stitch all have been made in our home and don't forget craft kits with all the supplies!

  • Reading - Do a favorite read aloud book together or let the kids read on their own.  Act out a scene from a favorite book or play! 

  • Videos - If you don't own any educational ones visit the library!  We have watched many of Shakespeare's plays, the ballet Swan Lake, and many science topics. 

  • Audio - Play music from composers you have studied, enjoy music from other countries, or listen to songs that teach something new.

  • Cooking - Baking with kids gives opportunities for learning measurements, following directions and understanding new vocabulary.  Also teaching a child to cook is easier when there isn't a dinner deadline and fun is the goal.  

  • Computer - There are many educational websites with games that reinforce or teach new concepts.  Research the night before, and then you know the links are safe and work to your children's' interests and age levels.

  • Kids - The kids will have their own ideas and they will be happy to apply their imaginations and talents when given the opportunity.  If your kids seem unmotivated then just get involved doing something and enjoying it. They will usually come around to see what all the excitement is all about that they are missing!


What makes Fun School fun?  You! 

Having a great attitude, even when the experiment didn't come out quite right, or the craft glue is all dried out will teach a lesson in itself!  No need to worry.  There isn't any pressure to complete the task perfectly or have all the right materials!  There are no grades or assignments that need to be sent in for evaluation. The kids don't have to be concerned about memorizing facts or being quizzed afterwords. It is just plain fun with no strings attached!  As a mom, it is great to see your kids discovering new things and enjoying learning!

The bonus is that you will see Fun School happening more often because your kids will be wanting to revisit these experiences and add new ones! 

They will be hurrying to get their school work done so that they can do the Fun stuff that isn't "school" in their eyes, but just having fun!



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Homeschool Burnout - 10 tips to Energize the Day!

by Veronica 24. January 2012 07:23

Avoiding Burnout

As we approach the season of homeschool burnout, I though you might be looking for some clear skies.  This blog is the first in a series dedicated to avoiding the dreaded dark clouds of burnout.  Let these ideas inspire you to make some sunshine in your homeschool!


Energize Your Homeschool Day!

Ok what do I mean by this?  Simply do things differently and have fun!  Here are 10 ideas: 

  1. Change the order of which you complete your school subjects.

  2. Wear costumes or funny hats to school-go through the dress-up trunk or put something together that is just fun to wear!

  3. Eat lunch for breakfast and eat breakfast for lunch.

  4. Let the kids use colorful pens or pencil colors to complete their work.

  5. Pick a different seat other than the usual spot.

  6. Trade out the lined notebook paper for construction paper, stationary, or printer paper that has a decorative border.  Note: This may not work for every subject, so think about where it fits best.

  7. Tell the kids to use the computer to type up anything they normally write out- a history outline or grammar questions for example.

  8. Decorate your school area with streamers, banners, balloons, or leftover party theme props.

  9. Turn out the overhead lights and use alternative lighting such as night lights, flashlights, or LED candlelights.

  10. Have a "word of the day" and then do something silly every time it is said.  A silly thing could be jumping out of your seat and getting under the table.  Use a word that is likely to come up a few times like, "book" or "read".  You can even make it into a contest to see who responds the fastest or catches the word of the day the most.

Remember enthusiasm is contagious.  Starting the day with eagerness, even when you don't feel like it, will be the first step to brightening your homeschool.



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